Medical negligence compensation - misdiagnosis of hydrocephalus leaves student with cognitive issues
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Home > News > Medical negligence compensation after repeated failures to diagnose papilloedema

20th September 2010

Medical negligence compensation after repeated failures to diagnose papilloedema

A student, our client in this claim for medical negligence compensation had been considered an academic high flyer with prospects of studying at Oxbridge. His parents asked for our legal advice when their son slipped into a coma and on recovery was left with cognitive dysfunction.

This will tragically have an effect on his future academic potential and our specialist medical negligence lawyers commenced a claim for compensation both pain and suffering and for the loss of his abilities, and the loss of earnings that his reduced cognitive capacity may dictate.

Failure to identify papilloedema by a GP

Our client had been complaining of severe and frequent headaches for some months prior to the final acute event which left him in a coma. He had also suffered episodes of nausea and fainting.

Initially he had been seen by his local GP, then later several times by the medical team (Nurses and Matrons) at his boarding school. Each examination had been dealt with as individual episodes rather than a holistic picture of symptoms, and none of the examinations included examining our client's optic fundi (a fundoscopy),

Even when he returned to his GP on the day of his eventual collapse, this critical examination was not done. Had he received this examination, it would have identified that he was showing signs of papilloedema, which is a swelling of the optic disc. This would have immediately flagged up the need for urgent hospital referral and would have avoided his collapse and coma.

Failure to identify brain tumour

When our client eventually collapsed, just hours after his last visit to his GP, he was admitted to hospital where it was confirmed that he was suffering from a brain tumour, an astrocytoma, or low grade tumour, which was causing acute hydrocephalus. The Brain and Spine Foundation, defines hydrocephalus as follows:

"Hydrocephalus is a build-up of fluid in the brain. The excess fluid leads to increased pressure on the brain which can cause damage to the brain tissue.

“In the past, hydrocephalus was sometimes referred to as 'water on the brain' (the word hydrocephalus comes from the Greek words for water and head). However, the excess fluid is cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), not water.

“There are two main forms of hydrocephalus in adults: acquired hydrocephalus and normal pressure hydrocephalus (NPH). People with NPH experience a build-up of CSF in their brains without necessarily experiencing a significant increase in pressure."

For more information please visit the Brain and Spine Foundation website.

Treatment for hydrocephalus

Once diagnosed, our client was treated by having a ventricular drain inserted to relieve the hydrocephalus, and he was ventilated, supported by intensive care. Although physically he made a rapid recovery, he was left with cognitive problems which affect his memory and concentration. His predicted career was delayed and it was argued that he would find himself at considerable disadvantage in any labour market.

Court proceedings issued for medical negligence compensation

Our specialist medical negligence lawyers brought a claim for compensation against the GP. When the defendant was unwilling to accept any liability for our client's permanent injury, we were forced to issue court proceedings. However, before the date of trial they were able to negotiate a substantial sum in medical negligence compensation.

Making a medical negligence compensation claim

Telephone us now on 0800 783 9019 or complete one of our online compensation claim forms, and a representative will contact you as soon as possible.

Please go to our Costs and Risks section for information on how Clear Answers' specialist medical negligence team will handle your claim and funding.

Alternative funding arrangements may apply in Northern Ireland due to differing procedures and Law Society regulations.

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